Pagan and the Pit(bulls)

The political musings of a Pagan and her dogs.

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Grateful vs. Thankful

A lot of my Facebook friends have been doing “X days of Gratitude”, and since we have just entered the holiday season (a time of year that typically makes me border clinical depression) I thought that maybe doing one of these challenges would help give me a boost. Except, it doesn’t really seem to be working out. Because, right now, I’m 0% grateful. Not 1.0×10^-n grateful, 0 grateful. Here’s why.

The full definition of grateful according to Merriam-Webster is:

1.a. appreciative of benefits received

1.b. expressing gratitude (e.g. grateful thanks)

2.a. affording pleasure or contentment

2.b. pleasing by comfort supplied, or discomfort alleviated

Right now, I’m not receiving an benefits. I’m in po-dunk town with a family that I kind of hate to take family pictures, when I could be at home with my fiance and my pittie puppies. This situation also affords little pleasure of contentment, and causes more discomfort than it alleviates. In many ways I’m not grateful right now, and I probably won’t be until the family/holiday season is over. Some times (like now) I feel so outsider to them it’s hard to feel like I get a benefit from them or that they offer some pleasure or contentment to my life.

On the other hand, I do feel thankful for them  Because to be thankful is to be glad that something has happened or not happened, that something or someone exists. I’m thankful that they exist, and I’m thankful that I know them. I’m thankful that I get to spend time with them, even if we are all kind of grumpy and waiting to leave as soon as it’s socially acceptable.

So I think I will practice being thankful rather than being grateful this holiday season. Because I am thankful, every day.

*Edit: I am however deeply grateful for my puppy. Like ridiculously so.

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This Weeks Food for Thought

Just so we are all on the same page: I’m not on top of things. It’s the beginning of the holiday season (a time I have issues with anyway), finals and final projects are coming up, I’m mega behind on several side projects, and registration for next semesters classes tend to give me a week of nightmares and panic attacks. So, super sorry for the late update. I swear, I do have thoughtful and relevant posts coming—there is one on why we should give libations to Ares during the holidays, and one about a charge of Hecate and why I think it works. But right now, this is a going to be a little bit more “stream of consciousness” than anything else, so we’ll see where this ends up.

When I first started writing this post, it was on Thursday and there was a craft fair at my university. Normally, I’m a anti-holiday creep—because Thanksgiving is its own holiday and deserves respect; and nothing gets my goat like hearing ads for the Nutcracker on Labor Day and seeing Christmas decorations the day after Samhain. Just sayin’. But this time I was more ok with the annual craft fair happening before Thanksgiving, the academic calendar is a little fucked up wonky this fall, and there were at least 5 Pagan vendors there (possibly 6, but I’m not sure if that woman is Pagan or just one of the New Age-y people who show up all the time to festivals and smoke tons of pot).

Which meant I went around taking pictures of all of their wonderful things (and getting a free neck rub score!) to post on the Facebook page of the university’s Pagan student group. Somewhere between “thank every single god for caffeine and the local coffee shop” and “holy jesus look at that Minion hat, I need it” I thought about what being a community means. During my lunch breaks, I’m normally not a deep thinker; I just want to sit down with some mind numbing fiction and eat in peace and quiet. But this was my exception.

Because community is more than just the people you go to ritual with, drink and dance with at festivals, eat with, laugh and cry with. It’s the small things that tie us all together. It’s knowing the stories of the local vendors (one has a son who is the most adorable boy I’ve ever met) and supporting them through the hard ones (one vendor was robbed while he was at a festival, so his stock is super limited). It’s posting their businesses on a Facebook page, because that’s how they need support right now and as a community it’s up to us to support them sustainably how they need (and within our means, don’t be going out to spend money you don’t have). We weave our own community tapestry, but we don’t weave it in grand sweeping patterns and bold colors. We weave in single threads and touches. These singles threads, these small contacts are what build us up and hold us together.

Which makes this post somehow better than I thought it was going to be, minus the overabundance of commas and parenthesis, because it reached a point. It also meets it’s criteria of being a post for this week, so I’m going to leave it here and then tackle my load of homework. I might cry into my wine while I do it, but it will actually get done.

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With in and With out

On Tuesday my cousin (and maid-of-honor) started texting about the wedding. Our conversation went a bit like this:

Her: You sound so tired, it’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

Me: Yeah, the party will be awesome. But it’s not like anything is really going to change.

Her: But it’s two souls becoming one through Gods will and holy matrimony! It changes everything!

Me: Wait, what?

I think that this conversation really highlights the biggest problem I’ve had talking to my family. We see things fundamentally differently. As far as I’m concerned, my marriage to my fiancé won’t change a whole lot. We already live together, have a mortgage, and have 2 pit bulls. We’ll be adding a few insurance and phone bills, and that (as far as I can foresee) is about the extent of the changes to our mundane life. I’ll even be keeping my last name. We have discussed the sticky topics: money, politics, kids, and monogamy. We’ve been handfasted for 2 years, and been May Royals (what a wild ride that was). I’d say we’re pretty on top of it. Marriage is magickal and legal ceremony, but it’s not the fantastic cure all or fix all that my cousin seems to think that it is. If anything, I think it’s an initiation. To what, I’m not quite sure. I’ll let you know when I do.

One of the women in my coven once said “there are three types of initiations: ones that will never happen, ones that jump start what needs to happen, and ones that reaffirm what have already happened.” I’d like to believe that when we do get married it’s the third type. After all, we have already bound ourselves to each other on our own; though I wouldn’t be opposed to it being the second. It probably is a little bit of both. And I’m totally ok with that. But it’s something that we do as humans, the ceremony itself is not a crucible that changes how or why a relationship works.

Which circles around, kind of, to my original point. We see things differently, and it impacts how we think about the sacred ceremonies that shape the cycles of our lives. My cousin (and a majority of my family) see marriage as something that comes from and is created by the Divine. I see it as something that comes from and is created by us. Our union comes from us choosing to be bound to each other, and from us creating and maintaining a loving relationship. We can certainly ask the Divine to bless it, I know I certainly will be appealing to the gods for them to do so; but this is not something that comes from them.

I think that’s where a lot of communication problems come from. We as Pagans, particularly Pagans who are Wiccan or have a Wiccan flavor to their practice, are told “if you cannot find me within, you will not find me without”. But our Christian families aren’t told that, they tend to be told “accept Jesus into your heart”. For them, the Divine is outside them in a way that Pagans can’t really understand (even the hard polytheists like myself). For us, the Divine is fluid, in and around us in a way that our Christian families can’t really understand. The first step though is to remember that the gods are known by a thousand, thousand names, and that each god has dozens of specialized epithets; but that their charge to us can easily be summed up.

All acts of Love and Pleasure; Strength and Kindness; Mirth and Reverence are ritual. All acts. If we remember this, we can remember that our families still love us, we have moments of happiness and pleasure with them, they help keep us strong, they are kind when we need support, that we share moments of mirth, and this brings us a reverence of what the relationship with our families can be. And that right there is the Divine at work, with in and with out.